A seven-year-old boy missing since being abandoned in a bear-inhabited forest in northern Japan as a punishment nearly a week ago was found alive on Friday and reunited with his parents, officials said.
The boy, apparently unharmed and in good health, was discovered at a military base. Reports said he had taken shelter in a hut and found a tap to drink from but was hungry and immediately asked for food when discovered.
“A Self-Defence Force official who was on a drill found a boy whose age appeared to be seven,” said Tomohito Tamura, spokesman for police in northern Hokkaido Island.
“There was no conspicuous external injury, and the boy introduced himself as Yamato Tanooka,” he said, adding that the boy’s parents were reunited with him and confirmed he was their son.
The boy “looked in good health” but was taken to hospital by helicopter for a check-up as a precaution, Self-Defense Forces spokesman Manabu Takehara said.
The child’s emotional father later apologised when speaking to reporters outside the hospital where the child was being treated, in an appearance aired by public broadcaster NHK.
“My excessive act forced my son to have a painful time,” he said.
“I deeply apologise to people at his school, people in the rescue operation, and everybody for causing them trouble,” he added, thanking the rescuers.
“The first thing I said to my son was, ‘I’m very sorry to have caused you to face this suffering because of me,’” said the father, whose name has not been released, adding that his son nodded in return. The boy had been missing since Saturday after his parents said they made him get out of their car on a mountain road as punishment for misbehaving — actions that have seen them severely criticised.
The parents originally told police their son had got lost while they were out hiking to gather wild vegetables, but later admitted they became angry and ordered him onto the road because he had thrown stones at cars and people.
The local Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper said the boy had told police that on Saturday night he walked some distance to the corrugated metal hut on the military base — located some 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) northeast of where he went missing.
An unidentified Self-Defence Force official told NHK that there were two buildings on the perimeter of an exercise field, and that when the soldier opened the door of one of them he found the boy inside.
“When the official asked ‘are you Yamato?’ the boy said ‘Yes, I am’,” he said.
The boy was hungry so the soldier who found him gave him something to eat, another military official told NHK.